Paul was not the most like-able guy. Nor was he the most dynamic speaker. There is a story in Acts about a young man falling asleep In the middle of one of Paul’s sermons. He was sitting on a window ledge and fell out. Paul, not to be deterred, healed the man … and carried on.
Likewise, sometimes when Paul tries to offer pastoral counseling to his congregants, he can come across … how should we say … bristly. Take, for instance, his letters to the Corinthians #1stcenturymegachurch.
- The behaviors. The folks at Corinth were taking some of the early Christian ideas a little too far. For example, some were using the Eucharist as an excuse to drink … a lot; some of them were doubling down on their sinful activity, then playing the “salvation” card as a way to atone for these additional sins; finally (and this is where Paul really got his drawers in a knot), the women of Corinth were arguing that they should be equal to men in the church. Their logic: Paul’s own words, “in Christ there is neither male nor female”.
- The reprimand. Paul can’t help himself. There are certain generational and cultural biases that even Paul can’t alter. After addressing some of their other questionable behaviors, he finally says what he really thinks: I forbid a woman to have authority over a man! Yep, that pretty much clears things up. And we can see those male patriarchs up in Corinth waving that letter around town on the day it came in the mail. We’re also pretty sure things at home were a little tense that night.
- Some random other stuff. I Corinthians is probably a single letter. But most scholars think II Corinthians is a composite of maybe four other letters,. Sometimes you can tell because there are verses that do not flow from the text surrounding them. Why would the early Christians not preserve Paul’s letters intact? You gotta appreciate that these were letters, not holy doctrine at the time. So some of them may have been trashed. And copying letters was laborious and expensive at the time. So II Corinthians may have been an expedient way of preserving only Paul’s “most important” paragraphs.